Hospitals Jointly Track Flu

All In Md. Linked Via Computer To Share Data On H1n1 Virus

August 25, 2009|By Laura Smitherman and Stephanie Desmon | Laura Smitherman and Stephanie Desmon,laura.smitherman@baltsun.com

Anticipating a potentially widespread outbreak of swine flu this fall and winter, state officials announced Monday that all of Maryland's hospitals will now be linked in a computerized system to better track the disease.

The officials said Maryland is the first state to enlist all its hospitals in the surveillance program, which is also designed as an early warning system for a bio-terror attack. Forty-six hospitals will share data on patients admitted, diagnoses and treatments.

Also, drugstores in the state will be reporting sales of flu and cold medications.

The federal government and the O'Malley administration have been gearing up for a mass vaccination campaign against the H1N1 virus. Health Secretary John M. Colmers said the plan is to vaccinate more than 2 million Marylanders, with the most vulnerable people having priority.

Colmers, appearing at Prince George's Community College with Gov. Martin O'Malley to promote a new health studies center, emphasized that seasonal flu vaccine - which will be administered separately from a swine flu vaccine - is available now.

Marylanders should prepare action plans in case a family member falls ill, Colmers said, adding, "This is an all-hands-on-deck operation."

Separately, officials reported that an elderly Maryland adult from the Washington suburbs with serious underlying medical conditions had died from the H1N1 flu, raising the state's toll to seven. Officials offered no other details.

As of last week, 522 people nationwide have died after contracting H1N1 influenza and 7,983 people have been hospitalized, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

This week, researchers at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health will begin administering the first of 50 doses of an experimental swine flu vaccine as part of a large clinical trial under the sponsorship of CSL Biotherapies of Australia.

The trial is different from another at the University of Maryland Medical Center, which is working under the auspices of the National Institutes of Health using a vaccine from a different manufacturer.

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